Lobectomy versus sublobar resection for small (2 cm or less) non-small cell lung cancers

Ann Thorac Surg. 2011 Nov;92(5):1819-23; discussion 1824-5. doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2011.06.099. Epub 2011 Oct 31.


Background: We evaluated a cohort of patients who underwent resection for small (2 cm or less) non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) to determine if there is an association between extent of resection (lobar versus sublobar resection) and local recurrence or survival.

Methods: We reviewed 468 consecutive patients who underwent resection for small NSCLC at our institution between 2000 and 2005. We excluded patients who had neoadjuvant therapy, active noncutaneous malignancies, pure bronchioalveolar carcinoma, lymph node (n = 53) or distant metastases at diagnosis, or multicentric cancers. Clinicopathologic data, recurrence, and vital status as of June 15, 2010, were retrieved. Overall and recurrence-free survival from surgery rates were assessed.

Results: Two hundred thirty-eight patients underwent resection for primary solitary small NSCLC. Lobectomy (n = 84) was associated with longer overall (p = 0.0027) and recurrence-free (p = 0.0496) survival. Patients who underwent sublobar resection were older (p < 0.0001) and had worse pulmonary function (p < 0.0014). While there was a trend toward increased rate of local recurrence for sublobar resection (16% versus 8%, p = 0.1117), there was no difference in distant recurrence. Moreover, when lymph nodes were sampled with sublobar resection, local recurrence rate and overall and recurrence-free survival distributions were similar to those for lobectomy.

Conclusions: Sublobar resection is reasonable in older patients with limited cardiopulmonary function. For healthy patients, however, lobectomy remains the standard therapy, with sublobar resection with lymph node sampling representing an alternative to consider. These findings support continued effort to conduct a randomized trial of lobar versus sublobar resection, such as CALGB 140503.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / surgery*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / epidemiology
  • Pneumonectomy / methods*
  • Survival Rate